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Thursday, December 13, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years in Spokane: Anti-influenza health measures prove challenging to enforce

The city health officer told police to wear masks against the Spanish flu, illustrating the challenge of enforcing the recent law. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The city health officer told police to wear masks against the Spanish flu, illustrating the challenge of enforcing the recent law. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The Washington State Board of Health ordered people to wear flu masks in most public settings, yet enforcement of this rule was already proving to be nearly impossible.

In fact, the city health officer complained that Spokane police officers were violating the law themselves by not wearing masks. Dr. J.B. Anderson said he would issue warrants to police officers who violated the order. The police department responded by saying they were “religiously observing” the mask order.

This was just one of many mask-related problems. People riding in elevators were supposed to wear masks, but not everyone was complying. Clerks in some stores were wearing masks, but others were disobeying the rule.

There was confusion over whether Washington Water Power should allow passengers onto streetcars if they were not wearing masks. At one restaurant, the wait employees wore their masks for two hours and then took them off and threatened to go on strike if required to wear them any longer. The proprietor took their side, and the case was under investigation.

There was, naturally, a big rush in mask sales and in some cases masks were sold out.

From the war beat: Optimism ran sky-high as news arrived from Europe that the Germans were preparing to make a formal reply to the armistice terms.

The German army was in retreat everywhere and a citizen’s revolt was spreading through German cities. Kaiser Wilhelm II had formally abdicated the throne.

Spokane and the world anxiously awaited new developments.


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